With a string of law degrees behind his name, Jannie Nell never became a law practitioner, but instead ventured into the motor retail business for a career.
Today Jannie is Dealer Principal at Westvaal Mbombela (Nelspruit), the largest dealership in the group.
From his first job on a Hyundai showroom floor as a Service Advisor to the Hyundai Head Office, Jannie took to the retail business like a fish to water. After Hyundai, he was appointed the National Sales and Marketing Manager when Mahindra came to South-Africa and helped to establish twenty-eight dealerships across the country.
He later moved on for a stint at Honda South-Africa and after that as Sales Director at Peugeot South-Africa Head Office. Spending 12 years at OEMs, Jannie went to the other side of the automotive business. Now in his sixth year at Westvaal Mbombela, he says this is his happy place and the challenge he enjoys most.
“Because of my law background, attention to detail is of utmost importance to me. Another aspect if my approach to business is not to shy away from any challenge, of which we have had many over the past two years owing to the pandemic.
“We have Isuzu, Isuzu LCV, Peugeot, Citroën and Opel at our dealership, and we have just been awarded the Top Volume Dealer in the Westvaal Group out of twenty-four dealerships. In Isuzu SA classification terms, we are considered a large category dealership, and we are a top volume dealer in both LCV and MUX in the year to date.
“One must focus on what we have and what we can sell. Our team is tops, and we adapt to the circumstances presented to us. People are our intellectual resources and the inspiration for business.
“The current conditions are becoming the new way we live and do business in for at least the near future. We can no longer sell from the showroom floor alone and need to take the product to the customer. Getting potential customers in the seats and behind the steering wheel is the best way to introduce a product.
Jannie says he strongly believes customer service and retention are the make or break in the workshop. A customer for life is created in your workshop. Having specialists in the workshop is essential, especially with the sophistication of modern vehicles.
“From the moment a customer contacts us or walks into the dealership, we have to bring our A-game. We cannot lose a transaction. Give the facts, explain the product and everything it offers, and the price will not be an issue,” he says.
He tells Dealerfloor the two French brands, Peugeot and Citroën, and Opel only became part of the dealership more recently and they make a big effort to build the support base of the brands in the region.
Located close the Kruger National Park and neighbouring countries like Eswatini and Mozambique, Jannie says they do business in the two countries with a lot of it linked to the workshop and after-sales.
“Westvaal is well-known and has and established reputation in Mbombela and the broader region in which we do business. Although our focus is local, we do business wherever customers need us. Two hours ago, we were privileged to welcome Silulumanzi (provider of water and wastewater services in the Mbombela city area) back in our fold with a fleet of fifty-one bakkies.
On the used car side, business is also challenging. We work hard to obtain excellent quality stock, and we do the recon of all vehicles ourselves to ensure their quality,” Jannie says.
And what about the future? “It could take as long as two years for circumstances to get back to what we are used to before 2020, but it could also be sooner. We have to make the most of what we are given,” Jannie concludes.
To chat to Danie Stassen, co-owner and Dealer Principal of Subaru in Mbombela (Nelspruit), without mentioning Dakar would be impossible.
Weskus Ford in Vredenburg relocated to a new building that offers much more space for their new and pre-owned vehicles.
Regardless of the persisting challenges related to COVID-19, business in the North West province seems to be on the upside.